It's time for Exxon to pay up and wise up

Posted: Friday, March 31, 2000

Somebody needs to teach Exxon-Mobil a lesson in public relations.

Eleven years ago the company was responsible for the worst oil spill in the nation's history in Prince William Sound. On the anniversary of that disaster Exxon filed suit to block BP Amoco's proposed sale of Arco Alaska Inc. to Phillips Petroleum. To top it off, Exxon continues to appeal a $5.3 billion damage award resulting from the spill.

That last action led legislators to approve a resolution this week asking the company to quit appealing the verdict and just pay the bill. We support the right of companies to appeal verdicts, but this is going too far and for too long, especially in light of Exxon's other actions.

If you think about it, Exxon probably will spend as much appealing this verdict as if they had just gone ahead and paid it. And that probably serves them right.

Gov. Tony Knowles already has warned Exxon that it might not get state leases for oil and gas operations on the North Slope even if the company gets Arco's assets. Exxon is basing that attempt on a 1964 contract between it and BP that allegedly gives Exxon the right of first refusal on some Arco assets.

Apparently, Exxon just doesn't get it. Alaskans don't want Exxon taking over Arco and becoming a major oil player in our state. Alaskans want Exxon to pay up. And even if somehow Exxon won the right to take over Arco's Alaska properties, the state says it won't give them any leases.

When is Exxon going to learn. And how much clearer can we make it?

As the warden said in the movie Cool Hand Luke, ``What we have here is a failure to communicate.''

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